sobota, september 25, 2004

Border dispute wreaks havoc in Slovene/Croatian relations

Slovenia is formally withdrawing support for Croatian membership in the EU, according to a 23 September press release from the office of Prime Minister Anton Rop. The move follows yet another incident on the still-non-demarcated border between Slovenia and Croatia.

On 22 September, Slovene People’s Party (SLS) leader Janez Podobnik was forcibly taken into custody after a visit to Joško Joras, whose house sits on the Slovene/Croatian border and who has been the focus of several bilateral disputes since the dissolution of Yugoslavia in 1991 [For more on Joras, see: RFE/RL / 25.09.04 /
Analysis: Slovenia Threatens To Block Croatian EU Membership].

Podobnik refused to show his papers at the border, insisting that Joras’s home is on Slovene territory and therefore he was not crossing any border. Podobnik and 12 other SLS members were arrested after a minor scuffle. They were released after several hours.

The Prime Minister’s press release calls the 22 September incident “unacceptable,” and says that it “means that Slovenia cannot, at least for the meantime [sic.], continue backing Croatia’s bid to join the EU.” Rop added, "Croatia is distancing itself from its path to the EU, and I regret that" [UVI / 23.09.04 /
Rop: Slovenia Can No Longer Support Croatian Accession to EU].

Following the press release, the Slovene government passed several decisions over the incident. The government condemned the Croatian border police’s handling of the incident, and Croatia’s overall attitude toward the border dispute. The government also formally decided to appeal to the European Commission to take steps against Croatia and to block the country’s prospective EU membership, however the National Assembly must ratify the decision before anything can be done [UVI / 23.09.04 /
Government's decisions about relations with Croatia].

The government expects to formally complain to the EU by next week. For now, the EU has requested a full investigation by the Croatian government into the incident. An EC spokeswoman told Reuters, "For the moment there is no reason to change our policy towards Croatia, but we want more information about that particular incident" [Reuters / 24.09.04/
Slovenia to seek EU action over Croat border row].

Parliamentary elections will be held on 3 October in Slovenia, and so much about the incident and the Slovene government’s reaction are being viewed through the prism of local politics not only in Slovenia but also in Croatia [Glory of Carniola / 23.09.04 /
Election Season Antics, ICE / 24.09.04 / Border dispute has Slovenia withdraw support for Croatia's membership in EU].

The border is just one of several unresolved issues between Slovenia and Croatia, which hopes to join the EU before 2009.

US - Slovene diplomacy changes hands

On 15 September, new Slovene Ambassador to the United States Samuel Žbogar presented his credentials to US President George W. Bush, while new US Ambassador to Slovenia Thomas Bolling Robertson was sworn in the following day.

Žbogar is the fourth Slovene ambassador to the US, following Ernest Petrič, Dimitrij Rupel and Davorin Kračun. Bolling is the fifth US ambassador to Slovenia [SBW / 20.09.04 /
Zbogar Submits Credentials to US President].

Also on 16 September, outgoing US Ambassador to Slovenia Johnny Young met with Slovene President Janez Drnovsek one last time. Young has served in his post since 2001 [SBW / 20.09.04 / Drnovsek Receives US Ambassador on Farewell Visit].

43% of Slovenia on-line

As of the first quarter of 2004, 43 percent of the Slovene population between the ages of 16 and 74 is using the interent and 47 percent of all households have internet access, according to the national statistics office.

Also, as many as 93 businesses with ten or more employees have internet access, while nearly two-thirds of all businesses (62 percent) have a homepage.

Of the 43 percent (673,453 people) who use the internet, more than half use it daily and 86 percent have used it at least once in the past three months. Around 70 percent use the internet at home, while 54 percent use it at work. The most popular uses of the internet in the first quarter of 2004 were email and searching for various information [Večer / 21.09.04 / Internet uporablja 43 odstotkov prebivalcev].

World Bank gives low ranking to Slovene business climate

The World Bank’s report “Doing Business 2005” ranks Slovenia well below most other European countries in terms of business conditions. The biggest problems relate to setting up a business in the country, as related costs can amount to as much as 12.3 percent of the total investment [Finance / 13.09.04 / World Bank Report leaves Slovenia in the Doghouse].

A total of 145 countries were surveyed for the report.

Finance spoke to several experts, most of whom agreed with the World Bank assessment. Former Economics Minister Jože Zagožen said that the government does not do enough to help new businesses, and current Economics Minister Matej Lahovnik agreed, adding that the government is currently preparing several new changes which should help the situation [Finance / 13.09.04 /
Dobro obveščeni o negativnih rezultatih raziskave Svetovne banke].

The report contains several indicators grouped into various classes: economic characteristics, starting a business, hiring and firing workers, registering property, getting credit, protecting investors, enforcing contracts and closing a business
[SBW / 20.09.04 / World Bank Report Points to Excess of Red Tape in Slovenia].

City Magazine to join the ranks of free media

A new free magazine, City Magazine, is set to launch on 25 October. It will be published by GV Skupina and the Belgian publisher Roulart. The magazine will publish monthly, with 48 pages and a moderate printrun of 90,000 copies, but there are plans for it to appear bi-weekly next March. It will be aimed at active, urban people, and will be distributed throughout the country in restaurants, stores, gyms, hair salons and cultural sites [Finance / 30.08.04 / City Magazine: Brezplačna revija za aktivne meščane].

Roulart has published similar magazines elsewhere in Europe for some twenty years, and they now appear in as many as 40 regional markets.

Though City Magazine will compete against the country’s already well-established free weekly newspapers
Žurnal and Dobro jutro, they are not worried [Finance / 01.09.04 / Žurnal in Dobro jutro se ne čutita ogrožena].

Mateja Kozole, Žurnal's press secretary, told Finance that “At the moment, it is difficult to speak of direct competition, and it is also too early for any sort of expectations. Žurnal is doing just fine, and so we will not be altering our plans because of the entry of a new free magazine into the media market.”

Dobro jutro editor-in-chief Saša Pukl said, “Free media was a market niche when Dobro jutro appeared on the market in November 2002, but it is not such any more. Nevertheless, it remains a good business opportunity for capable publishers. City Magazine will be competition for us, but only partially. But it will also help us spread the idea of free media, as I said when Žurnal first appeared.”

Pittsburgh Slovenes celebrate

Last weekend, around 300 ethnic Slovenes and friends in the Pittsburgh region of Pennsylvania celebrated the 100th anniversary of their emigration to the United States and the formation of their local branch of Slovenska Narodna Podporna Jednota (SNPJ) in Evanstown. The celebration was timed to coincide with the group’s annual grape festival and the 20th anniversary of the Slovenian Heritage Association.

The Slovenian Heritage Association was created by Frank Kalik, and organizes the Slovene presence at the annual Pittsburgh Folk Festival, held each year in May. Its current president is John Malec.

The celebrations featured winemaking demonstrations, folk music and a parade of folk costumes. Reigning Miss SNPJ Caralyn Fejka of Youngstown, Ohio, performed [The Valley Independent / 22.09.04 /
Slovenians celebrate heritage].